STORY BY BARRY WISE SMITH
1) Tell me about growing up in Kentucky. How did you get started hunting?
Growing up, we had a cabin north of Louisville on the river. My extended family is large, and during the fall months, my dad, uncles, cousins, and I would spend weekends at the cabin. Most my “hunting” memories consist of riding four wheelers, catching crawdads in the creek, grilling out, and spending time with family in the outdoors.
In Kentucky, the rifle season is smack dab in the middle of the rut—so those two weeks and the weeks leading up to it were when we actually hunted. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I started bow hunting, and that changed the game for me. Bow hunting made it more of a challenge to me. This was 2014, and at the time not many women were in to hunting—especially archery. My hunting roots were established because of how I was raised, and I was able to add to that with my love for archery.
2) You moved to the Florida Panhandle in 2016. What prompted the move?
In summer 2016, I planned a girls’ fishing trip to Destin, Florida. We were offshore/bottom fishing with Captain Chris and Shelby Kirby on their boat Backlash. Before the trip, I called Shelby to ask if she knew any local photographers. I was working with Bass Pro Shops at the time, and they wanted photos of the trip to promote their women’s fishing apparel line. She said she did and passed along contact information for my now-husband Hunter with whom she’d gone to high school. I called to ask if he could do the pictures, and he turned me down, explaining that July was one of his busiest months (he was also a charter boat captain). But we connected during that first phone call and agreed to stay in touch. He began to call me on the phone. As a woman in her early 20s, a man calling to talk on the phone is rare—most men just want to text or DM.
We got to know each other leading up to the trip, so by the time we arrived, he decided to fish with us. Although I was sick as a dog during the trip, we had a blast. I saw Hunter every night and stayed a few extra days. I met his boss at the time, who offered me a job as the operations manager of a company they were launching. I was a Florida resident a month later. I guess when you know, you know. We got married in 2019.
3) You hunt deer, ducks, and turkey. What’s your favorite thing to hunt, and where do y’all go to hunt?
That’s a hard question. If you ask me in March, I’d say turkey hunting, but ask me in August, and I’ll say deer hunting. We’re fortunate to be able to take spring and fall off work, dedicating a lot of time to hunting.
This past year we hunted turkey in South Florida, Kansas, and Nebraska. We are full-on turkey hunting fools from about mid-February until about May. We deer hunt in Kentucky, Florida, and Illinois.
4) What’s your best one-that-got-away story?
I’ve got one from this past year that will haunt me for the rest of my life! We had a deer on camera the past few years on a property in Kentucky. Early season, we ride around in the morning and evenings and glass the soybean fields from the road. One morning, Hunter spotted the deer feeding in the soybeans, about 500 yards off the road. He watched him for a while, and the deer bedded down in the middle of the soybean field, which sounds strange because it was September and still pretty hot, but the soybeans provide a lot of cover and moisture underneath. Soybeans get tall in Kentucky, so he was completely covered. We could just see the tips of his antlers above the soybeans. Hunter came up with an unorthodox plan to stalk the deer, so we looked at the aerial map and located the sprayer tracks in the field. There were several that provided about a body-wide trail to walk down. I took my boots off to be as quiet as possible, and I started my stalk. It took me an hour to walk a quarter of a mile.
Hunter and I go back and forth—I can’t see the deer, Hunter barely sees him and is trying to explain it to me, I’m cautious not wanting to go past the deer and get downwind. I finally spot the tips of his antlers, and he’s about 50 yards away. I ease up, now about 30 yards away. The angle is impossible, so I ease up a bit more, and at this point I’m only 15 yards away from a 165-170 inch with my bow. I draw my bow back and aim in his direction. I whistled to see if he would get up. Still drawn back, I ease closer, still drawn back. He still doesn’t hear, see, or smell me, but suddenly he gets up and hauls ass in the opposite direction. In hindsight, I should have sat down and waited all day if that’s what it took. You live and you learn!
5) What’s your most memorable hunting trip?
My most memorable trip was this past year when we traveled to Wyoming to hunt antelope with one of our friends, Lee Gilmore, who’s a guide at Four Horse Outfitters just outside of Gillette, Wyoming. It was so neat to experience hunting out west! Our plane landed early in the morning, and we immediately loaded our bags and bows in an old van. We went to the first spot to glass for antelope and spotted a few shooters in an open field. I threw my camo and boots on, grabbed the decoy we brought with us, and started the stalk. I drew back and connected within a few hours of landing. We hunt a lot of public land, and it’s never that easy, so it’s always nice when everything works out and you’re able to connect on the first day! We had fun riding around with the cowboys and seeing wildly different scenery than what we’re used to.
6) You also fish, and your husband is a charter captain. What do you like to fish for and are you a deep-sea or inshore girl?
Inshore—all day, every day. I get SO sick offshore fishing—I’ve tried every trick and prescription medication out there, and nothing works. That doesn’t mean I don’t try. This year I tried to go snapper fishing—Hunter told me it was going to be calm, and that unfortunately wasn’t the case. We target trout and redfish in the bay. It’s calm and basically in our backyard. There’s also nothing like bass fishing! I’m no pro at any of it, but I sure do have fun.
7) Describe your perfect day.
Our rehearsal dinner was one of my favorite days because we were surrounded by our best friends and families, and we had a crawfish boil.
8) How would you encourage women to get outdoors and try hunting and fishing?
Reach out to women in your area and ask to go with them. I for one would LOVE to hunt with more women! And do your research. There is so much information on YouTube, Instagram, and Google. Chat with your local fish and wildlife organizations. There’s a lot to learn if you’re starting from scratch, but know that we are all constantly learning and growing. Most hunters and fishermen/women are happy to help, take you along, and answer questions. If someone is passionate about it, they are probably happy to share that passion with you.
9) If you had to pick a favorite outdoor activity, what would it be?
I’d probably have to say turkey hunting. I don’t deer hunt with people, so it’s typically just me, which can be nice and peaceful, but with turkey hunting you do it with friends, which is really fun.
10) Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m not really a five-year-plan kind of girl. Number one would be to raise a respectful, healthy, happy child (I’m due in September). As far as hunting goes, my plan is to continue to travel and hunt around the country, work on killing a turkey in every state possible, connect with some big deer, and have fun along the way.